Smart USA is offering a 36-month, $99-a-month lease since last week in order to increase sales of the microcar brand. Previous rates of the lease were at $159 to $169 monthly. The same $999 down payment as the previous lease deal is required for the new $99 lease.Smart-owner Mercedes-Benz has been attempting to give the brand a higher profile since July, when it took over U.S. distribution from Penske Automotive Group. Tracey Matura, who became Smart USA's general manager at that time, states that the lease offering is one of Mercedes' attempts to revitalize the brand.
Smart launched two TV spots last fall on national networks and cable. It also redesigned the Smart-USA.com website and has started utilizing social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, Matura related. Seventy-five Smart dealers operated under the Penske group, which distributed the brand in the U.S. for at least three years. When distribution rights shifted to Mercedes-Benz USA, only 54 Smart dealers that also had Mercedes franchises were retained. However, 33 additional dealers entered the network, bringing the total to 87. The new sales outlets are Mercedes stores. An addition of six dealers is planned.
The new Smart dealers have set aside an area of their Mercedes showroom for a Smart Corner. Dealers who established Smart stores can choose between shifting to a Smart Corner and receiving an additional 1.5 percent margin in payment if they kept the exclusive facility. According to Matura, all 54 dealers chose to maintain their stores.